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Engaging the Ever-Elusive Millennial: How To Capture The Next Generation of Donors, Supporters and Champions In Your Organization

It’s no secret that Millennials get a bad rap. Publications such as TIME magazine have called Millennials “lazy, entitled, narcissists who still live with their parents.” So why try to engage this entitled group with something so noble as giving back to the community?

next generation of donors

In short, you should be thinking about how to engage this group because this is the next generation of leaders, donors and supporters who have proven themselves as an extremely generous generation. According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report (Case Foundation), 84% of Millennial employees made a charitable donation and 70% of Millennials spent at least an hour volunteering in 2014. If you are not actively engaging this younger audience, it’s clear that you are missing a large, enthusiastic and talented base of potential supporters.

On June 8, 2016, LiveImpact and San Mateo Credit Union sponsored an event alongside Olive Grove titled “How to Engage the Ever-Elusive Millennial”. This event was appropriately held in the innovative offices of tech company, Box, and geared toward nonprofit CEOs and Board Chairs. The panelists consisted of Millennials who represent various perspectives and experience from the social sector, including corporate social responsibility specialists from and LinkedIn for Good, as well as nonprofit and social enterprise specialists from Spark and Olive Grove. Throughout the panel, the following topics and themes emerged:

    • Make donating easy and tech-friendly. We are constantly connected and inundated with messages, so if donating isn’t extremely easy to do on a mobile device on the go, you’re missing out on donations. According to the 2013 Millennial Impact Report, 83% of Millennials have smartphones and 46% donated to a cause online in 2013. These statistics alone show how important it is to have an updated, mobile-friendly and easily navigable website. Millennials also stressed the importance of a clear and easy-to-find “About Us” page to learn more about your work.

    • Engage young professionals’ talent. Whether through a board or volunteering, provide opportunities for young professionals to build their expertise while contributing to your organization. Be sure to show these young professionals that their contribution of time and talent is meaningful to your organization. And if you are bringing young professionals onto your board for the first time, bring them on in pairs so they don’t feel uncomfortable voicing their thoughts at a table where they are surrounded by more experienced professionals.

    • Create a firsthand experience for young professionals and their friends. Offer an opportunity for a younger audience to directly experience your organization, such as a new type of event, program, young professional advisory board or other initiative that aligns with your mission and strategy. Millennials are far more likely to donate time or resources if they can see the impact of an organization. They are also more likely to donate if a friend or colleague directly asks them.

    • Keep messaging personal, positive and explicitly linked to their donation. Personal stories go a long way, as shown in the 2013 Millennial Impact Report. More than 60% of Millennials like nonprofits that share stories of successful projects or people they have helped. Consider highlighting quotes, brief video clips and pictures from people impacted by your work. Positivity is the key, so if you are sending mailers with sick dogs or sad children, you may be missing a large target audience of donors and supporters. Instead of driving home the awfulness of the challenge you’re addressing, focus on how their involvement will improve that issue. It is also important to be specific with how their donation is helping, especially since their giving capacity may be limited at the start of their career. For example, perhaps you can launch a Kickstarter campaign for a specific part of your program and then celebrate how their dollars helped you bring your program to a certain new school or obtain specific materials needed.

  • Use social media to catch their eye and attention. Think of social media content as a “teaser” – use it sparingly but powerfully as the doorway into learning more about your organization. Keep messaging concise with a clear “call to action” that can grab attention quickly and be easily shared or retweeted. Finally, don’t be afraid of Instagram – this tool is a great way to show new audiences what you think is incredible or unique about your organization and a useful way to creatively engage a younger audience. For example, Bandaloop and Root Division both show off their unique forms of art through videos and pictures, but even if you aren’t a visual arts organization, you can still get creative.

Engaging Millennials is not a trend – it is critical for every organization to consider how to connect with this rising generation of leaders, advocates, champions and supporters who want to improve the world. The passion is there. It is up to you to make sure your message reaches them.

Amy Whittaker

Amy Whittaker

Amy Whittaker, Consulting Director, has been perpetually fascinated by understanding the variables involved with an organization that succeeds versus an organization that struggles – and helping both to operate more effectively. Having worked with a range of nonprofits from established to entrepreneurial, she has over 10 years’ experience advising organizations on strategic planning, governance, and facilitating cross-sector collaboration. Amy views herself as a partner with clients with a focus on building trust and honest communication.\r\n\r\nPrior to joining Olive Grove, Amy worked as a Consultant at Taproot Foundation. In this role, she partnered with Fortune 500 companies to craft community engagement strategies, design high-quality pro bono initiatives, and scale these initiatives globally. At Taproot, Amy worked with over 100 nonprofits in the Bay Area to bridge professional expertise with nonprofits’ capacity-building challenges to ultimately strengthen their organizations.